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What Is Property Litigation?

Property litigation is a field of law that deals with disputes relating to property of all kinds.

Property litigation typically involves settling disputes between property owners and their tenants or Co-Owners, but can also include a wide range of other matters involving the ownership of residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural property. In other cases, property investors and owners may retain the services of a solicitor when they need legal advice; for example, for drawing up contracts, or simply for obtaining advice in order to prevent future disputes or problems.

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Property Law, Litigation, and Dispute Resolution

Property law encompasses practices related to the buying, selling, leasing, and ownership of property. Within this category is a very wide range of issues that pertain to landlords and tenants, as well as co owners of property of all kinds. While litigation and dispute resolution involve different methods and processes, it’s common for property litigation solicitors to use both in the course of their work. Often, solicitors try to solve problems using dispute resolution first, and then may resort to litigation if those initial methods are not successful.

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Who Needs Property Litigation?

Property litigation can benefit anyone who owns property, whether it is residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural property. Example clients might include retailers, investors and developers, property managers, leaseholders, educational institutions, financial institutions, and commercial or residential landlords or tenants. In short, anyone who owns, rents, or leases property may at one time or another needs the services of a solicitor or litigator who specializes in property law.

Within these areas, property litigators can handle a very wide range of disputes, ranging from simple residential issues between landlords and tenants, to advising commercial property developers and investors. Examples of property disputes that might require litigation include:

  • Securing vacant possession of a tenanted property
  • Remove ill legal Possession of others
  • Obtaining a court order to allow property developers to proceed with development
  • Recovering rent arrears from a commercial leaseholder
  • Enforcing continuation of a lease in a case where a commercial tenant attempts to exercise a break option but does not comply with the contractual requirements
  • Acting for a property owner to remove unlawful tenants or peoples from a property
  • A boundary or right-of-way dispute between two residential neighbors’
  • Matters relating to conveyance, such as title issues or easement disputes

In each case, property litigation solicitors will attempt to reach an agreement on behalf of their clients via dispute resolution methods. If an agreement can’t be reached, the dispute would then enter the court system.

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Alternatives to Litigation

For a number of reasons, it’s often prudent to pursue alternative methods of settling property disputes, rather than seeking an outcome through the court system. The most common reason is typically that litigation is a more expensive process; however, litigation is often more time-consuming, contentious, and stressful, than alternative methods. For businesses and investors, another reason is that settling disputes via alternative methods avoids the possibility of publicity that may harm business reputations and relationships.

Collectively, the three primary alternatives to litigation are referred to as “alternative dispute resolutions”.

Arbitration: In this method, a professional arbitrator is assigned to the case. The arbitrator has the power to impose a binding decision, by which both parties must abide. Of the three methods, arbitration is the method that most closely resembles court proceedings, but it has the advantage of ensuring that the details of the dispute remain private.

Mediation: A trained mediator facilitates negotiation between the parties involved in the dispute. In contrast to arbitration, the mediator does not make binding decisions; rather, they help the parties involved come to an agreement. This method is useful because it provides a neutral forum for discussion, but as the mediator does not have the power to impose a binding decision there is the possibility that the dispute will not be resolved.

Negotiation: This method is less formal than either arbitration or mediation, as it simply involves parties negotiating before they start any legal processes. Negotiation might take place between the two parties directly, or between solicitors engaged by the parties involved. Again, negotiation may not necessarily result in resolution of the dispute, but it can help each party explain their position and clarify the nature of the dispute.

Legal aid for property disputes is subject to the same rules and regulations as legal aid for any other purpose: there are different levels of legal aid available, and the kind of legal aid a person can receive depends on the nature of their legal problem, as well as their assets and income.